Birthday parties acknowledge and celebrate the date we were born. Traditionally, cake and ice cream, some fun and games accompany these events, with joy and merriment setting the tone of the day. Based in ancient pagan traditions, games such as pin the tail on the donkey, where one is blindfolded and spun around before attempting to pin the tail closest to where it should be, harken back to delving into the unknown, and the winner is rewarded with good luck for the upcoming year.
Other people follow astrological charts and the movement of the stars and planets throughout the heavens. Once a calendar year became standard, annual dates were more easily observed. Such calendars are based on planetary movements and the rotation of the earth within the solar system. Many believe that the characteristics associated with the twelve signs of the zodiac guide us lucidly through our life.
Although there are no hard and fast rules governing when in one’s life we start having birthday parties. Birthday parties start from year one and progress throughout a childhood and well beyond. And naturally, throwing a birthday bash takes some planning. It's such fun for the adults in a baby's life to celebrate the child and witness his or her reaction to the birthday party goings on. The colors and light of birthdays are perfect for these tiny family members.
Birthday celebrations for babies are the perfect way for parents to seize on the opportunity of a baby's birthday to bring families and friends together. A word of caution however: do not use what is to be a celebration of life to repair familial relationships that are damaged or broken. Bringing people together for a celebration means creating an atmosphere that is joyous. It does not mean entertaining in a potentially toxic environment.
If you must be a mediator during such celebrations, be sure not to have people around your baby or child who will present a thoroughly negative experience to the child. This is neither the time nor the place to allow family feuds to disrupt the joy of a birthday gathering.
I have also observed that some parents have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to birthday parties. Granted there is a great enthusiasm involved with elaborate birthday presentations, but there is also the feeling on the part of guests that they may not be able to keep up with the rich flavor of the party. Clearly, the party presents the need to balance the intent and frills that accompany any celebration.
At three years of age, children seem to start to really participate in the fun of birthday parties. The kids are old enough to play in a supervised setting and begin to understand the joy of gift giving, a special cake with candles to blow out, the singing of Happy Birthday, and the treat of cake and ice cream. The birthday child and guests look forward to a special day that is just their own.
As we grow older, birthday parties become more varied and are reasons to have dinners, roasts, fundraisers and many other celebratory events. There are those of us who would prefer that no fuss be made at all to draw any attention to us or to exactly how old we are. Some of us are very self-conscious of our age. We have a preconceived notion in our minds of just how old someone of a certain age should look, and behave . We then compare ourselves to that arbitrary standard, and examine where we are on such an age scale.
Through the discoveries of modern science, healthier living conditions, and greater longevity, we are aging differently than we used to. Yet, despite these changes, we continue to be our own worst critics when it comes to the image we project to the world. Some of us don’t follow this path and are able to graciously accept the aging process. For those among us who are fine with life as it presents itself, birthday parties are celebrated with gusto and light-heartedness.
The celebrant is the most important person when hosting a birthday party. No matter what the age, congratulations and good wishes are always in order. Great food is often appreciated more than gifts, especially as get older and really do not need nor want any more ‘stuff’. The love that goes into producing a jar of homemade jam can be greater than the energy expended on finding a gift. With food, soap, flowers, and homemade jam as the list from which to choose a birthday present, there will likely be something for everyone.
I reiterate a note of caution for those among us who try to perform miracles of repairing dysfunctional families during a birthday celebration. Guest lists that gather people together to clear the air or patch things up totally defeat the purpose of the party. Do not make a birthday celebration an intervention, and think that you will accomplish anything. The only thing you are doing is distracting from the real purpose of the celebration. You are simply taking the attention away from the person the party is honoring. Focus on the individual whose birthday is being celebrated and create a day to remember throughout the coming year.